Want to Save More Money? Simply Avoid These Kitchen Mistakes that Drain Your Budget
“Food prices are expected to grow more slowly in 2023 than in 2022 but still at above historical-average rates. In 2023, all food prices are predicted to increase 6.5 percent, with a prediction interval of 4.9 to 8.2 percent. Food-at-home prices are predicted to increase 6.6 percent, with a prediction interval of 4.4 to 8.8 percent. Food-away-from-home prices are predicted to increase 8.2 percent, with a prediction interval of 7.3 to 9.0 percent,” according to the Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Julie Ramhold, a consumer analyst with DealNews.com, attributes these alarming predictions to inflation, climate conditions, labor crises, and corporate avarice. However, despite these challenges, she remains optimistic about the future with everyone being able to afford items on their grocery lists again without anxiety.
At the moment, Reader’s Digest Asia offers these following tips to help you cope with the current economic hardship and keep your savings from going down the drain.
- Kick the food-delivery habit. According to Forbes, compared to cooking at home, you spend almost 5 times when you order delivery from a diner. Even a meal kit service can be 3 times more expensive. What can you do? Plan and prepare meals for a week, so you can save more money and select fresh and more nutritious foods.
- Stop from buying prepared food. Prepared foods are also more expensive since labor costs are included in them. The same goes for pre-chopped fruits, vegetables, and smoothies. What you can do instead? It takes only minutes to peel fruits and chop veggies or make a smoothie. Also, you don’t have to be a chef to cook delicious food. There are many recipes available online from appetizers and snacks to entrées and desserts. Have fun discovering various ingredients, flavors, and aromas while growing your savings.
- Break your Starbucks habit. This is another part of your lifestyle that makes you spend more just for a fancy drink. To save, brew coffee at home. You can also select coffee brands with free shipping, reward points and some other perks that can add to your savings.
- When shopping at a grocery store, shop in bulk not just for one meal. Meats can be stocked in a freezer along with other non-perishable items. Meanwhile, if you store fruits and vegetables properly, you can extend their freshness. And so, go bulk buying to save time and money.
- Eat more plants than meats for greater savings and better health. According to a study cited by The Beet, “cooking vegan meals at home would cost approximately 40 percent less than meat-based meals. It also went on to claim that the meals take nearly one-third less time to prepare on average, saving the household both time and money.” However, this doesn’t mean you have to quit eating meat if you enjoy it. Just try to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet so you can save more money and improve your health.
- Have a weekly meal plan. This is the surest way to avoid wasting money on takeout, prepared foods, and impulsive purchases. You can prepare a meal plan for the week, buy fresh ingredients, reuse leftovers, and eat healthier.
- Shop for fruits and other foods that are in season. You’ll pay higher prices for foods that are out of season. They also don’t taste quite as delicious because they have been ripened unnaturally. So, choose fruits and vegetables that are in season so you’ll get your money’s worth. You can also learn food preservation so you can enjoy most of your favorites all year.
- Store produce properly. Lots of money go to waste whenever food rots quickly and you have to throw it away. To properly store fragile vegetables like herbs, wrap them in paper towel before placing in the crisper drawer. Also, you must remember that fruits and vegetables are different and must be stored accordingly.
- Don’t neglect your freezer. Aside from storing bulks of food, you can also use your freezer for preserving other foods that are nearing spoilage. You can freeze leftover pasta sauce, bread, soups, and fruits for smoothies. Just put them in clean, glass containers to prevent contamination and freezer burn.
- Don’t be so quick in tossing leftovers away. You can still preserve leftover pasta, salsa, and other other foods in the fridge and enjoy them later. Use silicone food covers that can fit any containers instead of plastic wrap since they can be reused.
- Don’t be in a rush to get rid of stuff because of the “best by” date. “Manufacturers provide dating to help consumers and retailers decide when food is of best quality. Except for infant formula, dates are not an indicator of the product’s safety and are not required by Federal law,” according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture. And so, don’t get immediately alarmed when you see those “best by” dates. Check if the food still looks and smells fine. If it’s been stored properly and has no indication of spoilage, it’s still good for consumption. If you have any concerns about food safety, you can also contact the USDA.
- Store grains the right way. There are grains, like flaxseed, that are best refrigerated to prolong their shelf life. But bread is not among them since it reacts to a refrigerator’s high humidity. But, if you want to preserve bread slices, you can place them in the freezer and let them thaw to room temperature when you plan to consume them. Another good reminder: it’s better to store products in airtight containers than their original packaging to make them last longer.
- Don’t buy herbs and spices in bulk. Herbs and spices are great at enhancing the flavors and aromas of dishes. They are also rich in antioxidants that protect our body from cell damage and lower our risks of developing heart disease, cancer, and other ailments. However, dried spices and herbs tend to lose their power as time passes, and so it’s best to buy them based on regular need. You can also grow your own herb garden.
- Leaving foods in open air. There are food items that easily go stale if you leave them in opened cartons and bags, like cereals and chips. You can easily place them in an airtight container or put a clip on the bag or carton to prolong their freshness.
- Don’t leave groceries in their original packaging. When you buy in bulk, make sure to repackage them upon coming home based on consumption need. Proper packaging and storage will prevent those food items from spoiling quickly.
- Don’t be so quick to throw away scraps. “While the world wastes about 1.4 billion tons of food every year, the United States discards more food than any other country in the world: nearly 40 million tons — 80 billion pounds — every year. That’s estimated to be 30-40 percent of the entire US food supply, and equates to 219 pounds of waste per person,” according to Recycle Track System. You don’t need to throw away scraps or leftovers too soon. Cheese scraps can be added to soups and sauces to make them creamier. Meat bones can be boiled and turn into stock along with aromatic ingredients.
- Among all the beverages, the Americans spend the most money on carbonated drinks. But you can now buy a home carbonation machine and spend a lot less to quench your thirst.
- Don’t throw away plastic utensils after using them once. You can still wash and reuse them, including plastic sandwich bags. This saves you money and helps the environment too. For more budget- and eco-friendly solutions, you can also replace paper towels with micro-fiber cloths which you can wash and reuse over and over again. Also, micro-fiber cloths can clean a lot of things compared to paper towels, which are not safe for wiping dinner plates and electronic screens.
- Save water by using a dishwasher rather than washing dishes manually. You can save more than $100 yearly by using Energy Star appliances due to their proven efficiency. When utilizing a dishwasher, make sure it’s fully loaded and you’re using a good detergent to skip pre-washing. Turn off the heat-drying part, as well, and let the dishes air-dry to save electricity.
- Neglecting your kitchen knives. Shopping constantly for knives can also drain your budget. You can avoid this by sharpening your knives with a honing steel after every 5 – 6 uses. Using magnetic knife blocks and wall bars rather than traditional knife blocks can extend the life of a blade, too, since they prevent friction.
- Take care of your cookware. Non-stick pans need special care, because you can easily scratch it with the wrong utensils. Cast iron is the most practical because it can last a lifetime even if you cook and bake with it frequently. And even if a cast iron skillet may appear rusty, you can scrub this cookware to make it look new again.
- Regular appliance maintenance will likewise save you more money. Kitchen appliances, especially those that are hardworking, require regular maintenance to prolong their efficiency. Take time to read the user’s manual and follow the instructions to avoid quick wear-and-tear.
- Don’t go shopping when you’re tired or hungry to avoid impulsive buys. When your stomach is empty, you hunger for a lot of things and end up buying non-essentials. Meanwhile, when you’re tired, your tendency is to shop in a rush and overlook price tags. Eat before you go shopping and shop when you can do it at a leisurely pace so you can make wise choices and shop according to your grocery list.
- Look for sales. Spend a few minutes to check if any sales are coming soon. You’ll likely discover many opportunities to buy home essentials or personal items at discounted prices.
- Don’t shop at the wrong store. Proximity is not the measure of a good supermarket. You need to research which stores offer quality products with the best prices. Also, don’t forget to bring your eco-friendly bag to support the environment.